Zemphira – (re)fit for a king

As designers of fine custom yachts we pour our knowledge, experience, creativity, and our love for the work into each project with which we are involved. Sometimes it’s a brand-new sailing yacht built to a style of sailing from a bygone era. Sometimes, it’s revisiting that design a decade or more after launch to review what is working well and even improve upon the original. Such is the case with Zemphira. Built as Goshawk in 2005, Zemphira will launch in the Spring of 2021 after a substantial re-fit, ready to take on all-comers in Classic Yacht Spirit of Tradition racing throughout New England.

Paul and I designed Goshawk while the in-house design team at Brooklin Boat Yard. Construction was a collaboration with the hull built by Rockport Marine and then towed across Penobscot Bay to be completed with us at Brooklin Boat Yard. This design features a long, narrow hull with long classic overhangs, a deep but rather conservative fin keel with bulb, and a spade rudder. Her rig appears small for her length, but that’s because she is so light that little sail area is required to drive her to max speed. The combination produces a stiletto-like sailboat, sleek and easy to maneuver, with speed and power.

Goshawk’s original design brief created an ocean racer in the Spirit of Tradition style. After launch she competed in the 2005 and 2007 Marblehead to Halifax Races, the 2006 Newport to Bermuda Race where she finished second in the Gibbs Hill Division (allows professional sailors), and the classic yacht Spirit of Tradition race circuit in New England. Her brief also kept her simple enough for family to manage while daysailing and cruising in Maine and Nova Scotia. By all metrics Goshawk was a success and her first owner sold her in 2008 only after having us, as Stephens Waring Yacht Design, create a new Spirit of Tradition yacht for him.

Goshawk’s second owner loved her very much but time restrictions kept her stored in a shed for much of the next decade. When she was put on the water however, her performance was still top shelf while racing in Spirit of Tradition events. The question arises, however, what happens when a 15-year-old design/build is brought out of the shed after more years pass and prepared for her next act?

Goshawk was purchased in October 2020 and her next race began, the race to complete a re-fit before the 2021 racing season as Zemphira. Her new owner put together a top-notch program with talented experts from all aspects of the yachting industry providing the tools necessary to bring her up to date with the latest equipment, design ideas, and materials. Stephens Waring was brought into the project for two primary reasons: familiarity with the yacht from her original design including hundreds of hours racing aboard and expertise with the requirements and foibles of the CRF rating system used for Spirit of Tradition racing.

Working with the owner and his team we formulated a plan of improvement and optimization with Stephens Waring primarily responsible for the following:

  • Analyze the design/rating relationship using a velocity prediction program (VPP) to identify best performance versus rating. Any upgrades were on the table for discussion including rig and appendage changes
  • Zemphira will have a new carbon-fiber rudder with a small surface area and reduced thickness for reduced downwind drag and lower wetted surface for more drag reduction.
  • We designed a new, below-deck hydraulic jib roller-furling system for a more streamlined and secure installation. By adding a jib-tack cunningham the trimmers can adjust jib luff tension on the fly to control jib draft depth and location without having to adjust the halyard. This is especially efficient in quickly changing wind conditions.
  • There are several modifications to the mast’s structure and equipment to accommodate newer, higher-tech rigging solutions like halyard locks.
  • By modifying the anchor roller and stem, anchoring will be easier while cruising and whether cruising or racing a Code Zero on its own furling drum can be tacked to the new stemhead fitting.


After race day, ready to relax 

Beyond the mostly performance-oriented changes above we’ve spent quite a bit of time improving comfort and accessibility for cruising including an easily stowable and easy to handle carbon-fiber side-boarding platform, fully-enclosable dodger/bimini system for the cockpit, new stern rails with bucket seats for the owner’s position while racing or cruising, and interior revision of the saloon and sleeping staterooms.


In addition to the work summarized above, the craftspeople at Lyman-Morse’s Camden campus dovetailed with the owner’s team of experts for systems revisions, including a new larger generator, a full new hydraulic system to provide seamless push-button sailing, new lithium batteries, and a full paint job. Zemphira will launch with jet black topsides and cockpit, mast and boom, a classic beige cabin top, red bottom, and silver cove stripe. 

The entire re-fit team will put new parts and systems through sea trials in mid-May tuning her up for an extensive racing schedule in Maine, including Spirit of Tradition races in Boothbay Harbor, the Camden Classics Cup, and the three races culminating in the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta. From Maine she’ll head south of Cape Cod to complete the full roster of classic yacht racing on Nantucket Sound and Narragansett Bay!